Summary: A short sermon/study for pastors explaining how we can maintain our integrity as ministers of the Gospel while using varous resources written by others.
Sermon Central and A Pastors Integrity
Text: Exodus 20:15
By: Ken McKinley
There is a great site on the WWW called Sermon Central. What it is – is a social network of pastors who post sermons, sermon outlines, Bible studies and illustrations. To me the site has been an enormous blessing as it has allowed me to read the sermons of many great and wonderful pastors, to see how they approach the Word of God, and to thereby grow. But over the last few months I’ve heard stories, time and time again, about how such and such church has found that their pastor was getting his sermon from the internet, and not taking the time to study out God’s Word.
I see two sides to this. For one, there is nothing new under the sun. God’s Word has been preached over and over again for centuries. In seminary we often read great works from great men such as Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, John Calvin, etc… and no doubt we “borrow” from these giants of the Christian faith, even if we are unaware of it. But I think that traditionally we have also cited our work. I know that I for example will often say something like, “Calvin in his Commentaries said thus,” or “Martin Luther once said…” or, “I believe it was St. Augustine that said such and such.” And so a quick citation is used and we go on with our sermon. In a sense it adds credibility to what we are saying when we as pastors can find agreement with the historical positions of the teachings of men of faith who have gone on before us.
But from what I can tell – from listening to people, is that the problem lies not in borrowing something to shore up our point, but in taking an entire sermon and then claiming it is our own without ever giving any credit to the original speaker.
Being a pastor; I fully understand that pastors are busy, but I also understand that the congregation has entrusted the pastor to search the Scriptures in order to find God’s message to them, and if they learn that the pastor has used another pastors message for another congregation, then they very well may be upset, and rightfully so. No one likes “re-gifting” (to borrow a term from popular culture).
And so in this short study I want to look at how we as pastors can use the sermons of others without compromising our integrity.
1st Cite your sources.
This is one of the first things I learned in undergraduate school. I was a history major and every semester we were told, plagiarism will result in an automatic failure of the course and possible suspension from the university. We as pastors should be used to doing this anyway when we cit passage and verse from the Bible, we also use various study tools and resources gleaned from others (which is what Sermon Central is), and so when we do borrow we should inform the congregation less they feel betrayed or shorted in some manner.
It’s helpful to know what your congregation expects from you as a pastor. Before I was hired on at my current church I asked the board what they expected from the pastor, what they expected as far as preaching went, and I even asked how they felt about my using study resources other than the Bible. Granted I would wager that most congregations have never taken the time to think this out thoroughly, as they don’t realize that much of our preaching is shaped by our seminary experience, and the resources we obtained while in seminary. For me personally, most of my congregation has never taken the time to read Calvin’s Commentaries, or Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God, or City of God. They may have read some of C.S. Lewis’ works, but probably not his lesser known stuff (ie. God in the Dock or The Abolition of Man). And so it may be helpful and beneficial to explain to your congregation what goes into sermon preparation, and the resources you use. So include your congregation and seek their support in this matter.